This review was originally published on News Cult in April 2017.

Narrator: John Krasinski

Director: Lu Chuan

Running Time: 76 Minutes

Rating: G

Release Date: April 21, 2017

Born in China is the tenth Disneynature documentary (counting both theatrical and non-theatrical releases) but the first that I have seen in its entirety. Normally I do not highlight my moviegoing blind spots, not just because I do not want to appear like a novice but also because it is a generally uninteresting caveat. But in this case I bring it up to make a point.

As far as I can tell, Born in China is basically the same movie stylistically or thematically as Earth, African Cats, Monkey Kingdom, or your average Animal Planet doc. There is the environmentalist ethos, lovingly shot open vistas, and narration that is not shy about anthropomorphizing (this time courtesy of John Krasinski). This is akin to seeing a recurring Saturday Night Live sketch in its hundredth iteration but for the first time for the viewer. As an SNL devotee, I often wonder how casual fans’ experiences differ from my own. A recurring bit that is basically an exact recreation of the original rendition is inevitably a letdown, but someone who has not seen the original does not experience the frustration of repetition. But could there in fact be something lost for viewers both new and old when the novelty has departed? My experience with Disnyenature suggests there could.

While Born in China is hardly a revelation, it does have its charms. If you have the capacity to giggle over a panda falling down a hill (which I do somewhat), then you should have a smile on your face for a good portion of the running time. And if you like the idea of Jim Halpert making up cutesy dialogue for his furry and feathered subjects, then this is for you. This occasionally gives me chuckles, but it can quickly grow tiresome. While the problem with the cheeriness is that it feels all too manufactured, I am not asking for darkness, just a stronger point of view.

Born in China is Recommended If You Like: Spending All Day Watching Animal Planet

Grade: 2 out of 5 Lost Boys